I’ve been building muscle with bodyweight training ever since Convict Conditioning was first published. When I attended the first PCC, a few people told me they thought I still lifted weights because I had a decent amount of muscle. Not that I can blame anyone for their doubt. I was once one of those guys in the gym hogging up the preacher curl machine telling everyone that you needed to lift weights to build muscle. It’s funny how things change; now I believe calisthenics is one of the best muscle building methods, bar-none. Most of reasons for this belief are because of 5 massive muscle building advantages calisthenics offers you.
Advantage #1 Low maintenance training
Even die hard weightlifters admit that bodyweight training offers unmatched convenience and deficiency. You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment, nor do you need to wedge a long workout into a busy schedule. You just simply drop down to the floor or grab on to a bar and you’re in business.
While many admit to these advantages, others are unaware of just how convenience and efficiency are essential toward packing on muscle. This is due to the fact that building, and maintaining, a muscular physique requires months and even years of consistent training. The convenience and efficiency of calisthenics makes it easier to continue your training even as life becomes turbulent. This ensures your training stays consistent long enough to build the success you want.
Advantage #2 Technical progression
Building muscle through calisthenics isn’t really any different from building it with weights except for one thing: With weight lifting you keep your technique fairly consistent while adjusting the load you lift; with calisthenics, you use a consistent load while you modify your technique.
Progressing an exercise through technique requires you to develop more than just strength and muscle. You also need to develop the “softer” qualities like balance, stability, flexibility and muscle control.
When I first started training in progressive calisthenics I was humbled by how much I needed to work on these softer qualities. At first, it felt some of the exercises were not building strength or muscle because they were more about flexibility or stability. Eventually, I discovered that developing these softer qualities was the key to more muscle growth. The more I improved my softer qualities the more harder qualities like strength and power progressed as well.
Advantage #3 Emotional and mental focus
Effective training requires much more than tense muscle and proper technique. You need to put some heart into what you’re doing to reach beyond what you can currently do.
There’s just something about moving your body through space that requires more mental and emotional focus. Consider the difference between running on a treadmill versus hiking along in a path in the wilderness. These days, commercial gyms place televisions and similar electronic devices on their cardio equipment to stave off boredom and mental fatigue. Such distractions are not necessary and even unwelcome with bodyweight training. Through using exercises that require as much growth within your heart and mind you build the quality of your training and not just the intensity.
Advantage #4 Intellectual challenge and growth
Progressive calisthenics requires you to continuously analyze and improve how your body works. It strips away the false promise that your success depends on having the perfect routine or using the right equipment. This leaves you with little else to think about except to learn how to use your body better which is the true essence of effective training.
Every workout is a lesson in how you are currently able to use your body and the weaknesses that you need to work on. Maybe you lack hip strength in your squats or perhaps your shoulders shrug from fatigue during push-ups. All of these little experiences invite you to explore how to adjust your technique and muscle control to improve how well you use your body.
Advantage #5 Workouts that are simple, disciplined and focused
I live by the 3 tenets of simplicity, discipline, and focus. Calisthenics embodies all three of these tenets perfectly because it requires mental and physical focus, continuous discipline and of course a simplistic approach to training.
It takes a lot of discipline to remain focused on simple workouts. The modern media constantly churns out advice that can quickly make training more complicated and fancy. Before you know it, you’re using a room full of gadgets to perform fancy exercises in a routine that’s based on rocket science. All of this fancy and complicated stuff might feel important, but it ultimately distracts you from what matters most.
Building muscle means focusing on just 3 things:
When your training involves little more than pushing yourself off the floor or lifting up your legs, there’s not a lot of clutter to distract you from working your muscles longer and harder. It may not be fancy, but that’s the point. The most exciting results are often produced from methods that appear boring at first glance.
Matt Schifferle, PCC Team Leader a.k.a. The Fit Rebel made a switch to calisthenics training 5 years ago in an effort to rehab his weight lifting injuries. Since then he’s been on a personal quest to discover and teach the immense benefits of advanced body weight training. You can find some of his unique bodyweight training methods at RedDeltaProject.com and on his YouTube channel: RedDeltaProject.